An extract from Armies of the Macedonian and Punic Wars
by Duncan Head, illustrated by Ian Heath


Herodotos records the Massagetai, a major Saka people, already used armoured cavalry riding partly armoured horses in the 5th century BC. Similar armoured Massagetai fought for Darius at Gaugamela. This man's long sword comes from a Massagetic grave, but otherwise he is a fairly tentative reconstruction. The troops at Gaugamela wore more personal armour than Greek cavalry, as well as having horse armour. This implies something additional to a cuirass; given the equipment of their Persian neighbours and of the next figure, parapleuridia seem likely. Helmets may have been worn instead of the cap shown. An armoured Saka cavalryman shot by a Macedonian catapult-bolt at the Jaxartes battle had a shield; these are not mentioned for the Massagetai at Gaugamela, although they were not normal cavalry equipment at the time and might have excited attention if used. This figure carries a light rectangular shield made of 35 round sticks passed through a thin leather sheet, in such a way as to produce a lozenge pattern, and carried by a broad leather loop. 85a is a similar, larger shield. Both are from the Altai culture's tombs at Pazyryk, perhaps the easternmost outpost of the Saka peoples. They seem to have been hung at the horse's saddlebow on the right when not in use. Apart from the sword he is armed with spear and bow. Spears were probably still quite light at the start of our period, but were soon replaced by the next figure's longer lance.

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